Adaptive Reuse Sparks Rediscovery of Historic Downtowns

Real Estate

As a project manager for JLL Atlanta’s Adaptive Reuse Unit, a specialized team within the project and development services division, I never face the same challenge twice. For our team, each project is an opportunity to transform and bring life into an old space, which in turn helps each unique community grow and thrive.

While we’ve worked on some of the largest, most complex adaptive reuse projects in the region, we have a special appreciation for the work we get to do in burgeoning cities and smaller, historic districts. In these areas, adaptive reuse is particularly powerful in sparking future revitalization and inspiring new growth. Leading the team, JLL Senior Project Manager Carson Mathis, a fellow adaptive reuse expert, has been the driving force as we tackle two exciting projects in districts outside of metro Atlanta – one old and one new.

Pop’s Coffee Co. 

Last month, we kicked off a project for Pop’s Garage Fabrication, a full-service motorcycle repair and retail shop in Roswell, a quaint historic submarket outside Atlanta that has spent the past decade experiencing significant growth. Notably, Pop’s Garage is located at the corridor that connects downtown Alpharetta, a relatively new and affluent suburb, to Roswell’s historic district.

For motorcycle enthusiasts, Pop’s Garage has a reputation for offering an elevated, one-of-a-kind shop experience. After years of witnessing Roswell’s renaissance firsthand, the owners of Pop’s Garage tapped our team to vibrantly transform the vacant retail space next door into something new: Pop’s Coffee Co.

We’re currently building out Pop’s Coffee Co. to be an eclectic, neighborhood coffee shop featuring craft coffee, patio seating, and a bar along a window that offers guests an immersive look into the fabrication work performed on customers’ bikes. With hopes to add a hue of bold color to the Roswell area, we’re adding a large, street-facing motorcycle mural on the building’s exterior.

To bring this full-throttle experience to life, we worked closely with our partners at brand experience firm Big Red Rooster to seamlessly extend the grittiness and authenticity of Pop’s Garage into the coffee shop. Their expertise has been invaluable in conceptualizing and executing this project.  Once complete, the coffee shop will make Pop’s Garage a social destination that caters to a wider audience, helping draw more visitors and foot traffic to the neighborhood. This street-level energy is key to maintaining Roswell’s momentum and sparking future growth in the district.

Happy Faces

This year, our team also completed the transformation of a dated military surplus store into a bright and modern office space for Happy Faces Personnel Group, a firm specializing in staffing solutions.

Located in the developing municipality of Tucker, a small submarket about 15 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta, this project was one of the first to complete the permitting process under new zoning regulations. As part of this, we worked closely with the City to ensure JLL’s efforts were aligned with the local government’s vision for the future of Tucker. This included adding a therapeutic community greenspace that can be enjoyed by Happy Faces’ employees and the residents of Tucker. We were also committed to finding creative solutions for the City’s specific requests, such as shielding all HVAC units from public view, which gave us the opportunity to build a custom wooden enclosure on the roof of the building.

By successfully revamping an old, forgotten building, we introduced a new chapter of hope for the City of Tucker. Happy Faces is just another example of adaptive reuse’s ability to create tremendous value for the burgeoning community and is a testament of what is to come.

At JLL, we’re passionate about finding ways to reinvent older, historic buildings so they can serve a new purpose and add value for their communities. Rather than starting from scratch by building something new, adaptive reuse is a cost-effective and creative solution that if done well, will have a huge return. Now more than ever, we’re dedicated to helping our clients find adaptive reuse opportunities that work for them, and we’re even seeing increased interest from landlords looking to reimagine their assets into something new that can be utilized now. In a time when everything is changing and the future is unknown, adaptive reuse remains a constant, and we’re looking forward to what exciting projects we’ll revitalize next.

Jessica Walburn is a project manager on the Variable team for JLL Atlanta’s Project and Development Services division where she assists with programming, design, entitlements, bidding, permitting and construction management.

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